If you follow college football, then you know that Texas A&M is now a proud card carrying member of the SEC. The Aggies finally got fed up with being under the thumb of those emasculated bovines in Austin, and decided it was time to go their own way and chart their own destiny. Our family welcomed the change, and if the picture above is any evidence, so did most Aggies. Of all the traditions A&M is famous for, midnight yell was never a favorite of mine, even as a student, but I'm really sorry I missed this one. Unfortunately, I was asleep and oblivious to all the (w)hoopla going on 200 miles away.
9:30 AM on Saturday, we were trudging from our car to our tailgate spot on the east side of the stadium. The weatherman had promised a cold front and boy, did he deliver. For about a half-hour it was actually a little too cool, but it warmed up and turned out to be a very pleasant day for early September. Amazing when you consider it was in the triple digits less than 24 hours prior. As they say in Texas, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.
For years, we didn't tailgate. Being endowed scholarship donors, courtesy of my parents, we got invited to rub elbows with the other Aggie wheelers and dealers at the Briarcrest Country Club before every home game. These were really nice affairs, with everyone dressed in their maroon and white best. But then the 12th Man Foundation, the host of these shindigs, did some calculating and decided it was too expensive to feed and water us. Without so much as a fare thee stinkin' well, we were cast out of the country club and forced to mingle with the great unwashed in sweltering heat, monsoonal rains, and freezing cold.
Initially we tailgated from the back of our minivan in the parking lot immediately west of the stadium. We were lucky enough to have a reserved space with our names on it, so our spot was ours and no one else could claim it. But tailgating in a parking lot is a blistery business; the sun bakes off the concrete and reflects off the metal of the surrounding cars. Besides that, the lot wasn't designed for tailgating, it was designed for parking, and if you weren't careful, you could get mowed down by a passing car. Tailgating in our reserved spot meant huddling in a tight group around the back of the van using the actual tailgate as a sort of table. After a season of dealing with the miserable heat, my husband bought a canopy/tent and we set that up behind our van. But whenever something bigger than an ordinary car needed to go through, we'd have to get up and move the thing forward a couple of feet, let the vehicle pass, then move it back, only to have to repeat the process for the next big truck or van or Hummer or battleship...this IS Texas, after all.
Then about five years ago, the 12th Man Foundation, probably pissed because we had been ignoring their pleas for more money, demoted us from our reserved spot in the prime "A" lot to an unreserved spot in a parking garage on the other side of the stadium. At first I was upset about the change, but then quickly realized they had done us an enormous favor. For one thing, our car was cool and covered. For another, the garage is close to the Corps quad where our younger son lived during his student years. Thirdly, it is across the street from the Memorial Student Center, the hub of campus life. But best of all, it was just steps from our friend Brandon's tailgate. His setup was on grass with vast oceans of space to stretch out. No more hard, hot concrete, no more worrying about getting flattened by a passing car while scarfing down a sandwich. THIS was tailgating heaven.
Back to the present. Last Friday, as I was meandering around Kroger looking for munchies, my cell went off. It was a text from Jared saying he had our spot staked out in the usual place. Jared is Brandon's cousin and because he has the misfortune to live in the College Station area, it falls to him to make sure we get our spot reserved. I don't envy him the job; there are too many people's weekend happiness riding on his success or failure. Here's how it works: at noon on the day before a home football game, a horn sounds to bring the Aggie faithful to Mecca, aka as "set-up day". I envision something akin to the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, with Aggies scurrying like ants all over the campus to stake out their precious tailgate spots. Naturally, those who have been squatting for years on the same spit of land get very territorial, and woe to any newbie who tries to shoehorn in so much as an ice chest.
We have had so much fun with our current setup, that we don't miss the country club affairs of our earlier years. Well, there was one exception last season when the wind was so bad, with grit stinging the skin and getting into eyes, that we were flat-out miserable. Unluckily, we had chosen that day for a fish fry, and the two deep fat fryers had to be sequestered in a building alcove for safety's sake. Even with the windbreak, leaves and other debris got blown into the fryers, harassing our two fry cooks to no end. Here's a picture:
As I said, we don't miss the country club scene. Football wasn't meant to be stuffy and fussy and dressy-uppy. Check out the photos below from last Saturday's SEC inaugural. It's a shame the football team didn't come through with a win, but we had an awesome day, regardless!
Midnight yell practice: http://tamutimes.tamu.edu/2012/09/19/texas-ams-sec-debut-delivers-over-6-5m-in-media-exposure/#.UpLSduJW-Gs
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